Quantcast 2008 St. Louis Cardinals: Cardinal Concerns Heading into Second Half
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Cardinal Concerns Heading into Second Half

The St. Louis Cardinals take a 53-43 record into the all-star break as they sit in 2 nd place in the National League’s Central division. If one were to tell a baseball expert in the Spring the Cardinals would be 10 games over .500 at the break and within striking distance of the Cubs, the expert would most likely respond with a “Maybe, but doubtful.” If you then told the expert the same club would place 10 pitchers on the DL, Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina would go through DL stints, and Chris Duncan would do time at Triple A and the Cardinals were 53-43, the expert might politely ask you to leave the room. For one reason or another Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan continue to thrive in situations where they are placed in a position to fail. Lets examine how the Redbirds have managed to over achieve thus far in the season and some concerns heading into the 2 nd half of the season.

Cardinals hats & merchandiseWe’ll start off with a rotation that was suspect heading into the year. To begin the year starters Joel Piniero, Mark Mulder, Chris Carpenter, and Matt Clement were on the disabled list. The rotation looked something like this; Adam Wainwright, Braden Looper, Kyle Lohse, Brad Thompson, Todd Wellemeyer. It looked like Dave Duncan would have to perform another miracle in order for the Cardinals to remain in contention until the big slingers returned and the task became even more difficult with an injury to ace, Adam Wainwright. How have the Redbirds remained in contention? The Cardinals came into the year coming off of an outstanding 2007 campaign from their bullpen with a very less than mediocre performance from the starting staff. 2008 has been a complete flip-flop for St. Louis. The Redbirds haven blown a league-high 22 save opportunities in 48 chances. The reason they have had so many save opportunities is due to the emergence of starters like Kyle Lohse. Lohse is having a career year with an 11-2 record and a 3.39 ERA. His WHIP sits at just 1.25 and has only given up 8 home runs in 20 games started. When the Cardinals were certain that so many arms counted on to be in the rotation were not 100 % the front office made what appeared to be an insurance move and picked up Kyle. After working a few months under Dave Duncan, Kyle might possibly be the biggest snub from the all-star game on the NL side.

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There are still many questions yet to be answered surrounding the Cardinals’ pitching staff. Chris Carpenter has yet to throw a pitch since opening day of last season. Management hopes he can return in a month or so. There has been some speculation he might serve time in the bullpen. Adam Wainwright is also expected to be back with the club in a month or so. With this piece of good news comes some familiar bad news to fans in St. Louis. Mark Mulder made his return to the ball club last week and pitched a couple of innings in relief before making his first start of the year in Philadelphia. His long waited return lasted an entire 16 pitches before he felt discomfort in his surgically repaired shoulder. The Cardinals were anticipating a boost to the club shortly after division rivals Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers made moves for a couple of big-named pitchers in C.C. Sabathia and Rich Harden. One strikeout, 2 walks, and a 1/3 of an inning later that boost was shut down for what might be Mulder’s career. The Mulder trade several years back has never panned out the way Cardinal nation had planned. From 2001-2004 Mulder led the big leagues in wins and went 72-32 with Oakland. Since joining St. Louis Mulder has faired just 22-18.

With the starting rotation missing its biggest name and the collapse of the bullpen, there is only one way the Cardinals have been able to pull off a 53-43 record and that is by hitting the ball. The Cardinals are 2 nd in the NL in hitting with the team combining for a very solid .275 average. This club has been getting it done with names that may not be recognized by the average baseball fan. LaRussa has always seemed to get the best out of players and this year has been no exception. These players don’t give away at-bats and this might be partly because other than Pujols, Molina, and Troy Glaus, who’s jobs are not in jeopardy, everyone is fighting for their right to play. Guys like Skip Schumaker, Aaron Miles, Brian Barton, and Brendon Ryan have to find a way to get themselves on base and play solid defense. Rick Ankiel, Ryan Ludwick, and Chris Duncan have to find a way to protect Pujols and Glaus. Everyone seems to be doing their jobs and Ryan Ludwick has succeeded expectations. Ludwick will be headed to New York for the all-star game sporting a .289 average with 21 home runs and 65 RBI. Ankiel has also provided some pop adding 20 home runs of his own and playing an outstanding center field. The Cardinals expected to lose some defense at third base with the departure of Gold Glover, Scott Rolen, but this has not really been an issue. Troy Glaus has flashed the leather at times and is doing his part behind Pujols posting the 2 nd highest on base percentage on the team while driving in 59 runs. Yadier Molina contuse to improve his batting average every year by driving the ball to the opposite field and is currently batting .312.

The biggest questions facing the Cardinals heading into the 2 nd half includes getting the rotation healthy, cleaning up the bullpen in front of McClellan, Springer, and Franklin, and whether or not their unproven, young sluggers can hold up for an entire season. LaRussa has put some pressure on GM John Mozeliak and the front office to make a move for some help. Tony fears the team could lose some ground in the division race before Carpenter and Wainwright return. We’ll see if the Cards can keep excelling at times of adversity.

 

 

By Zack Estes
St. Louis Cardinals Correspondent


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